Mossad Chief: Stop calling Iran an ‘existential threat’

Wouldn’t it be nice if the heads of our own national security agencies spoke truth to power like this? Tamir Pardo, head of Mossad, had this to say to a roomful of Israeli ambassadors last week:

“What is the significance of the term existential threat?” the ambassadors quoted Pardo as asking. “Does Iran pose a threat to Israel? Absolutely. But if one said a nuclear bomb in Iranian hands was an existential threat, that would mean that we would have to close up shop and go home. That’s not the situation. The term existential threat is used too freely.”

mossad chief
Tamir Pardo (Photo: AP/Eli Dassa)

Not only is Pardo going on the record to say that this language, favored by the very Prime Minister who appointed him to head Mossad, is overblown, but he did it in front of a roomful of Avigdor Lieberman’s people. This takes guts: Defense Minister Ehud Barak recently found himself in trouble for going off message on Iran when he suggested that Israel is not the sole motive force behind Iran’s nuclear talk.

Unfortunately in the U.S., the national security agencies have been relatively quiet over Iran since the IAEA’s latest, and misinterpreted, report on Iran came out (for a debunking of such misinterpretations, see here). The 2011 NIE, which has not yet been made available to the public, reportedly concludes that “the [U.S.] intelligence community has not determined that Iran has made the strategic decision to build a nuclear weapon, it is working on the components of such a device.”

But as Ray McGovern and Elizabeth Murray remind us, Leon Panetta is no Mike Mullen when it comes to standing down American chickenhawks, or Netanyahu and his Foreign Minister.

The danger today, I believe, is less that Israel will act unilaterally, but that the U.S. will launch a preemptive war on Iran because Obama will be convinced he has no other choice because of the mounting pressure from both conservative and liberal hawks (not to mention neocons) over his Israel and Iran policies in an election year.

Hopefully, voices such as these will increasingly be heard over those clamoring for regime change and airstrikes within and without the administration. So far, though, Tehran, Washington and Tel Aviv are all off to a bad start in 2012.

About Paul Mutter

Paul Mutter is a contributor to Mondoweiss, Foreign Policy in Focus and the Arabist.
Posted in Iran, Israel Lobby, Israel/Palestine, Israeli Government, Media, Middle East, Neocons, US Policy in the Middle East, US Politics | Tagged

{ 14 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Are Israelis’ leaving that place like rats do a sinking ship, to borrow a metaphor that may or may not be entirely apropos, but never the less the leaving Israel part remains valid.

    Is there any data on the number of applicants wishing to depart the promised land?

  2. MHughes976 says:

    An existential threat is a threat to one’s existence and it’s plain enough that a small nuclear armament in the hands of a hostile power does not by itself create a threat to the existence of someone whose armament is massive, though it may produce danger over a long time in combination with other things. But do Mossad chiefs really speak autonomously? Maybe we’re facing a general resort to the rhetoric of defence – walls and fences everywhere, no panic even if Iran becomes rather better armed.
    The choice of the words ‘close up shop and go home’ is interesting in a Freudian sort of way, sounding as if the Israelis are on an outing from their real dwellings.

    • seafoid says:

      The haredim are the existential threat. With that birthrate and that work ethic

      link to haaretz.com

      It’s time to cure the disease of ultra-Orthodox education
      Young Haredim are educated to totally despise the values of the secular state, which is why they have no problem scaring a little girl or calling policemen Nazis.
      By Nehemia Shtrasler

      Blessed be the yeshiva student who scared the little girl on her way to school. Blessed also be the one who spit at and cursed female passersby. Blessed be the ultra-Orthodox man who called the female soldier a prostitute, and blessed be those who demonstrated in striped prisoners’ garb and stuck yellow stars on their clothing.
      All this taken together might finally shake up the secular majority and force it into action. All this might make 90 percent of the population understand that there’s no point in condemning the spitter or putting the one who cursed on trial. They are merely symptoms of a serious disease, and whoever deals merely with the symptoms is wasting his time and could even make the disease worse.

      The disease is ultra-Orthodox education. It’s an education that puts young Haredim through a thorough brainwashing, which ends with them believing that democracy is the evil regime, that equal rights for women is totally treif, that freedom and humanism are only good for the goyim, and that studying math, English and history is idolatry. They also learn that to go out and work for a living is a terrible embarrassment, and that to serve in the army is worthy of contempt, suited only to the secular donkey – who is stupid enough to sacrifice his life for the “homeland.”
      Young Haredim are educated to totally despise the values of the secular state, which is why they have no problem scaring a little girl or calling policemen Nazis. Their leaders have a clear goal: To provide the community with good living conditions at the expense of the secular donkey, who they believe should work hard, pay taxes and sacrifice his life in the army. Thus they can continue to shirk their duty while continuing to blackmail.

      The part that’s especially galling and absurd is that the secular majority, in its foolishness, is financing this destructive process. It gives huge budgets to the independent Haredi educational system. It gives allowances to married yeshiva students, as well as grants that are far higher than what a soldier gets during his compulsory service, or a student studying medicine or engineering. This is because the secular population is suicidal. It is slowly but surely wiping itself out with its own hands.

  3. Kathleen says:

    Saw this the other day meant to link. Glad you caught it.

  4. gingershot says:

    Israel should be forced close up her Apartheid shop and go home from the Occupied Territories

    As long as Israel and her Israeli Lobby have been able to keep Egypt a puppet, Saudi Arabia in line, and Iran and Iraq cowed, she was able to create and maintain the Apartheid apparatus.

    Egypt is now significally loose from Israeli/Israeli Lobby control, and if Israel cannot beat Iran down – then Israeli/US hegemony in the Middle East will be vastly destabilized and the end of Apartheid ever closer

  5. yourstruly says:

    not iran but the zionist entity (better, the u.s.-israel alliance) is the existential threat – to all living beings.

  6. Kathleen says:

    So the ex Mossad chief and the present Mossad chief are on the same realistic and truthful page
    link to thinkprogress.org

    Thank goodness someone in Israel are demonstrating logic and reason

  7. another great video. A MUST WATCH.
    Especially for those, who still “trust” the MSMedia.
    “How the media manipulates the world into war”.
    link to gilad.co.uk

  8. So he’s admitting Israelis could ‘go home’. So they all think they have alternative nationalities which are their other ‘home’, do they? What’s all the ideological BS about then and maybe they would also let Palestinians come home too, since they seem in two minds about where they want to be.

    • carnas says:

      No, it’s just an expression in Hebrew meaning something like “to give up”. He isn’t referring to a geographical location. Most Israelis were born in Israel and of them most are of Sephardic ancestry, meaning they have nowhere to “go to” (Do you really see Jews living in Egypt under an Islamist govt.?). Please don’t buy this silly Helen Thomas-inspired slogans about Israelis going home. It’s the most ridiculous and ignorant thing to say.

  9. lobewyper says:

    “The danger today, I believe, is less that Israel will act unilaterally, but that the U.S. will launch a preemptive war on Iran because Obama will be convinced he has no other choice because of the mounting pressure from both conservative and liberal hawks (not to mention neocons) over his Israel and Iran policies in an election year.”

    Time for a little reality check. Let’s see what a competent poll of US voters would say about this. My guess: if we attacked Iran, that would END any chance of Obama’s being re-elected.

    • ahhiyawa says:

      “…My guess: if we attacked Iran, that would END any chance of Obama’s being re-elected.”

      Bingo!

      One thing Obama is not, and that’s he’s no one’s fool.